According to Zendesk, ‘Consumers globally now expect to be able to engage with brands with the same richness and convenience that they’re used to in their personal lives.’

Usage of messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram has grown steadily over the last decade, with the humble SMS still going strong. However, the global pandemic saw a dramatic increase in the use of messaging. Customers displayed a strong preference for using this familiar channel to communicate with brands – particularly in the heavily hit travel and hospitality sector – and this trend shows no signs of slowing down. 

Convenient for both customers and support teams 

Studies show that messaging is a preferred way for customers to communicate with businesses. Whereas only around 20% of recipients open emails, the open rate for text messages is estimated at up to 98%. So it makes sense to meet your customers where they are – by using the channel they already use and feel comfortable with.  

By 2025, 80% of customer service organisations will have abandoned native mobile apps in favour of messaging for a better customer experience – Gartner 

Messaging also has considerable advantages for support teams. Not only can agents handle multiple queries at once, but they also have a continuous record of the conversation so that any member of the team can work on a query. And messaging support is much easier to scale than ‘live’ channels such as phone and chat support – which means fewer resources need to be allocated to messaging channels.  

The travel and hospitality sector: Big challenges, big opportunities 

There’s a growing trend in the hospitality industry to use messaging to provide contactless check-in, get customer feedback, and upsell products or services. And this is no longer limited to the big hotel chains – it’s increasingly being adopted by smaller businesses, including holiday rental companies, as a means to automate and reduce staffing costs while providing an efficient and personalised customer experience. 

Real-time communication with guests can be improved by incorporating a text messaging system, such as WhatsApp. 

In the travel and hospitality sector, staying connected to customers isn’t just about managing enquiries and bookings, but about building a relationship between customer and brand through marketing. Maintaining a strong connection with your customers can increase the likelihood of repeat bookings and boost ‘word of mouth’ recommendations. 

From customer support to customer conversations: Best practice do’s and don’ts for your messaging strategy 

Good communication must be permission-based: make sure you have explicit opt-in permission to send marketing messages, otherwise you’ll fall foul of data protection legislation. Don’t use messaging too frequently or too generically, as your customers will view this as spam – and of course, keep your customers’ personal data safe and don’t share it without their consent. 

‘As properties transition to texting as a means of communication, it’s important to notice that there are clear do’s and don’ts your business should keep in mind’ – Nathan Mayfield, Forbes Business Council 

Carry on the conversation: in a hotel setting, for example, a follow-up message to ask if guests need anything during their stay will show that you care about their well-being, without being intrusive. Personalise your messaging: choose occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries to offer special deals. Finally, remember to ask for feedback and, if appropriate, invite guests to leave a review on social media. 

Setting up for messaging success 

Building a better customer experience means being active on all the channels your customers use – but there’s fierce competition in the area of messaging apps, with considerable regional differences in usage. WhatsApp in particular is heavily used in developing countries, where it’s often the primary method of online communication. 

Brands are turning to integrated messaging platforms that make it easy to deliver the best experience wherever customers are. 

Many brands are now choosing to deliver a seamless customer experience by using an integrated messaging platform. These platforms, such as Sunshine Conversations from our partners at Zendesk, unify messages from every channel under a single customer profile and conversation. Hospitality companies can even translate messages in real-time, allowing both customers and agents to respond in their local language. 

Here at redk, we have more than 15 years’ experience in digital transformation, working with our expert partners to advise on and implement the technical solutions that work best for your brand. Get in touch to find out how we can help you deliver a world-class customer experience.